The current draft of the GOP platform created in Cleveland includes a provision calling for sexual assault on college campuses to be handled exclusively by police, not campus judicial bodies.
Delegates on the platform committee of the Republican National Convention met Tuesday and approved a very conservative platform document that will be presented for final approval during next week’s convention. Included in the document is a strong call for sexual assault on campuses to be treated as a criminal justice issue best handled by police rather than school administrators.
“Sexual assault is a terrible crime,” the current platform draft says. “Whenever reported, it must be promptly investigated by civil authorities and prosecuted in a courtroom, not a faculty lounge. Questions of guilt or innocence must be decided by a judge and jury, with guilt determined beyond a reasonable doubt. Those convicted of sexual assault should be punished to the full extent of the law.”
Several delegates proposed amendments to the text which failed to pass. One failed amendment would have specified that colleges simply lack the resources or ability to prosecute assault cases. Another would have explicitly stated that colleges still have the “legal and contractual” right to expel students whom they believe have violated rules by assaulting somebody. While this amendment failed, the current text never denies that colleges have the right to expel students for conduct violations.
The strong endorsement of a criminal justice solution wasn’t necessarily inevitable. Several Republicans, including Sens. Marco Rubio and Kelly Ayotte, have endorsed the Campus Safety and Accountability Act, a bill intended to force schools to take greater action against sexual assault.
The platform text stands in sharp opposition to the approach taken by the Obama administration, which has placed heavy pressure on colleges to take the lead in ferreting out and punishing sexual assault. More than 200 schools have, or are currently being, investigated by the Obama administration for allegedly violating Title IX by failing to stop sexual assault. The stakes for colleges are very high, as the penalty for being out of compliance with Title IX is a total loss of all federal funds.
Pressure from the Obama administration has in turn helped create other problems for schools. Numerous schools are battling lawsuits from students who claim they were improperly railroaded off-campus without due process. Some students have sued their schools for millions, while others are targeting the Obama administration directly.
In Congress, several GOP lawmakers proposed a bill called the Safe Campus Act, which would require schools to report sexual assaults to the police before taking any action themselves to punish an alleged attack. The bill has been supported by due process advocates such as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, but attracted opposition from anti-sexual assault activists, who argue that requiring victims to go to police may silence them and deprive them of options.
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